By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The scoreboard said the Seattle Storm lost to the Los Angeles Sparks 70-56 on Thursday. In truth, it was never really that close.
The Sparks led by as many as 27 and handed the Storm their third home loss of the season.
“They just played better in probably every aspect,” Storm point guard Sue Bird said. “I don’t even know the stats, but I’m assuming they probably beat us in every category. They just played better.”
Bird was close in her assessment. The Storm were one better than the Sparks in rebounds and free throws made. Other than that, the Sparks dominated every category.
After leading by four at the end of the first quarter, Los Angeles outscored Seattle 24-10 in the second quarter to build and 18-point halftime lead.
The Sparks opened the second half with a quick 5-0 run to extend the lead to 23.
“They were just capitalizing on a lot of different things, whether it was turnovers, offensive rebounds or getting loose balls,” Bird said. “It seemed like every time we didn’t take care of something they were able to score on it.”
The Sparks had 15 steals to Seattle’s six and had an 8-0 edge in that category at halftime. They finished the game shooting 50.8 percent from the field, but that percentage dropped from 57.8 percent that they shot in the first three quarters.
“I thought L.A. played really well,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said. “That’s the best I’ve seen them play.”
The Storm shot just 39.7 percent for the game, up slightly from the 36.7 percent they shot in the first half.
“They do a good job defending us, so we’ve got to find some answers before the next time we play them,” Agler said.
The Sparks lead ballooned to 55-28 mid-way through the third quarter before the Storm made a run led by Shekinna Stricklen, who finished with 11 points. Seattle cut the lead to 18 by the end of the third quarter and got it down to 14 by the end of the game, but the outcome never was in doubt.
“Too little, too late,” Bird said of the Storm’s second-half run.
The Storm were paced by Crystal Langhorne, who finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.
Seattle played without forward Camille Little, who was away from the team dealing with family matters. She was missed on both ends of the floor, but specifically on defense where the Sparks’ starting frontline of Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Jantel Lavender combined to score 49 points. Ogwumike led the way with 21 and shot 10-for-16 from the field.
“I thought we struggled defending Parker and Ogwumike at times,” Agler said. “To me, we made it way too easy for them.”
Little’s absence obviously had an impact, but Agler said it’s the team’s responsibility to do the best with the players that are there — a sentiment Bird echoed.
“Obviously we would have loved to have Camille here, but that’s sports,” she said. “You’ve got to move on and you can’t worry about who you don’t have, but focus on what you do have.”
The Sparks lead the season series between the two teams 3-0 and Thursday’s victory gives them the edge should the two teams finish tied in the standings at the end of the regular season. Los Angeles improved to 7-9 for the season and currently it owns the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, a half game in front of Tulsa and 11/2 games in front of the Storm (7-12).
Seattle gets one day to recover from Thursday’s beat-down before it hosts Chicago on Saturday.
“Even though we didn’t play very well, I don’t see why that should impact the next game,” Bird said. “I think we can refocus and get a win and hopefully it will have a different feel in here (KeyArena).”
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.